OXNARD, Calif.– Every year, reporters speculate about who will and won't play in preseason games. Every year, coaches do their best to keep it a secret.
It's a tried and true ritual of the NFL experience, and it lets us know football is one step closer.
Wednesday was no different, as Cowboys coach Jason Garrett declined to get into detail about who will be seeing the snaps on Saturday night when his team opens its preseason in Los Angeles against the Rams.
"We won't get into who's playing and how much they're playing and all that," he said. "But you try to have a plan for players on your team over the course of the preseason."
Garrett was willing to acknowledge some basic truths of the preseason, however. Each of the four games serves a distinct purpose. The third preseason game is routinely called the "dress rehearsal" – the exhibition that most resembles a regular season game. The preseason finale is typically devoid of starter-caliber players, as it's one last shot for the fringe players on the roster.
Asked if the opener and the finale had basically become the same thing – a game with no starters – Garrett disagreed. But in listening to his comments, you can get a feeling for the type of personnel that will be on the field on Saturday.
"Obviously your starters don't play that much in the first preseason game, they don't play a lot in the fourth preseason game – that's not unique to us. That's everybody around the league," he said. "But these games are really, really important, and they're very valuable reps for everybody on the team. If you play six plays or 66 plays in the game, it's an important opportunity for you to show yourself and be the best version of yourself. That's what we'll emphasize to our team."